Wednesday, February 6, 2013

National Signing Day: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

5 years ago today, I sat down with my family and signed a piece of paper that would officially state where I would go to play football. I think I can speak for every high school football player that signs a Letter of Intent that it is one of the happiest days of your life, not just because you are celebrating where you will be going to college, but because it is the end of a stressful and tiring process. I wasn't a highly ranked player coming out of high school. I didn't make it on ESPN's National Top 300 list or California's Top 50 players, but I was decent enough to get a handful of offers. With this in mind, I was ecstatic that signing my letter meant coaches would stop calling, endless amounts of mail would abruptly stop, and I can go back to being a high school kid again. Even as a low profile recruit it got really stressful, so I can imagine the pressure blue chip recruits receive through the process. I had a handful of top recruits on my team, so I was able to get a sense of the madness that was going on. I use the word madness because people forget that we are 17 or 18 years old, and coaches all over the country are praying, kick and screaming for you to choose them as your collegiate destination. It really is a bizarre thing when you boil it down: universities open their wallets to fly their coaches all over the country, put them in nice hotels, and give them a nice rental car to talk to 15-18 year old kids to play at their schools.

To this day I still remember my first interaction with a college coach. It was during my sophomore year, and I was in the weight room with a couple of the guys when a big dude in a red jacket walked out of my coaches office. I didn't know who it was, I assumed a college coach because signing day was around the corner. Moments later my coach said to the coach "there he is," and he called me over. When I approached the gentleman, I noticed the "S" on his jacket, and I realized it was a coach from Stanford University. Now the NCAA has a million recruiting rules, so it was a brief discussion, but he basically said he heard about me and that he came down to learn more about me as a player and a student (yes, Stanford does care about a student athletes grades). It was at this moment where I realized that college football was more than just a dream, it was a realistic possibility. Soon enough I began getting letters from schools all over the country from D-I to D-III schools. Schools such as Washington, Ole Miss and Oregon St. to schools like Montana St., Marist and UC Davis where sending mail every week. Most of it is was wasted mail, but a lot of the time I received hand written notes from different schools. And if you are not familiar with the process, those are the letters you want in the mail. It shows the high interest the school has in you. For me it came down to Columbia University and Nevada. It might seem like a no brainer, but it was a much tougher decision than you think. Columbia being in New York and the education it offered were huge pluses, but at Nevada I could've walked out with my B.A. & M.A. and oh yeah, the starting quarterback at the time was a guy named Colin Kaepernick (You may have heard of him, he played in the Super Bowl this past Sunday)

After visiting both schools I chose Columbia and I don't regret it one bit. Do I wish I could've traveled and played on t.v.? Of course, but the experience at Columbia was a unique and powerful one, and after graduating this past May I knew I made the right decision. But back to the topic of stress and pressure. Over the past couple years recruiting has been crazy in a couple ways. With social media at its all time high, schools have taken note and began using it to recruit players. Head Coaches have their own personal accounts giving them high accessibility to recruits and vice versa. From the outside in, you would think these top players are rockstars such as the Beatles were, but they are just teenage boys. The best way I can describe the recruiting process: Indiana Jones trying to get his treasure. Okay, maybe that was a horrible example but you get my point. Coaches will stop at nothing to impress and shower recruits with non-stop phone calls, texts, letters, emails and visits; of course all of this within the NCAA "rules". But I use the word "rules" with no conviction, because recruiting really has become a black market where schools, coaches and boosters do anything to get the top athlete.

But nothing is official until the first Wednesday of February every year, and until than, coaches are up late and biting their nails hoping their hard work paid off. I am not going to lie, at first it is an awesome feeling that coaches are knocking at your door because of your talent, but it can get overwhelming. Some kids handle it with a respected maturity, and others play along creating a circus. But coaches don't care, if it means they have a chance of landing a Top 150 player. After being wined and dined, being pulled in every direction and listening to every voicemail, players must sit down and make a decision. High profile players make National announcements on ESPN, which is crazy to me that a kid has that much power, others are committed way in advance ending the stress early, and others do it the day of but behind closed doors. And while this is happening coaches are sitting in their offices watching the announcements and praying they get their high prized signed letters in the fax machine. 

We came from all over the country, and I couldn't have picked a better group of guys  to play with. Class of 2012.

If you are not familiar with the recruiting process such as the big announcements on National T.V. and the coaches reactions, check out the videos below! These are from a year and a couple years ago, but the links below are from todays signing day!

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